• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, May 27, 2013

INDY

Believe it or not, I flew to Indianapolis for my 35th Indy 500 on U.S. Airways flight No. 500. It's always nice to see old friends, which Indy creates the opportunity to do. The emotional highlight of the weekend for me was seeing Alex Zanardi. Back in the day when we worked together, something good would happen and Alex would often say to me, "There are no words . . ." Our words whispered into one another's ear in Gasoline Alley on race morning were highly personal and thus shall remain private, but as for the deep feelings involved, well, yes, there are no words . . .

New Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles oversaw his first Indy as boss. I spent almost 45 minutes with Miles Friday afternoon in his office. I've written here many times about the many "leaders" who have come and gone in various versions of American open-wheel racing (one such offering took second place in the AARWBA journalism contest). This much I can tell you about Miles based on observation and my first-hand time with him:

This is a serious, experienced, disciplined business management executive. Miles, unlike some of those who have come before, is not seeking personal publicity and won't be a fountain of colorful quotes. He's about building a proper management team and staff and moving forward, not looking backwards. The man is definitely not chained to the sport's past. 

I can't share much more right now because I'm still working out when and where I'll extensively quote him. Look back here next week for more and I'll also update plans on Twitter. But I did ask him about his authority and ability to navigate the Hulman-George family and series' politics (he was recruited by the outside Board members, not a member of the H-G family) and my last question to him was why hard-core IndyCar fans should believe his tenure will be different from those who have failed before.

From our interview, I did write a CompetitionPlus.com story that was posted last Friday regarding an IMS road course event conflicting with the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend (it won't happen), and the talking point that IndyCars are the "fastest" series. See link below for that.


In the May 27 Sports Illustrated, writer Lars Anderson's first paragraph of his Indy pole qualifying story included this line:

"The silver-haired Roger Penske, whose cars have won the race 15 times, chatted with one of his drivers, Helio Castroneves, on pit road."

Except Penske was NOT at Indy! As was well-reported on TV and elsewhere, Penske was in Italy, participating in the Mille Miglia.

I report. You decide.


Congratulations to the Hulman-George and France families, winners of the Bob Russo Founders Award, announced Saturday at the AARWBA breakfast. Russo, the late racing journalist/publicist/historian, founded AARWBA in 1955. He died in 1999 at age 71. The Russo Award is presented for “profound interest, tireless efforts and undying dedication to auto racing as exemplified by Russo throughout his lifelong career.”

Previous Russo Award winners include: 2005 – Michael Knight; 2006 – Wally Parks; 2007 – Chris Economaki; 2008 – Bob Jenkins; 2009 – Shav Glick; 2010 -- Bill York; 2011 -- Bill Marvel; 2012 -- Paul Page. A permanent plaque with all winners’ names is on display in the Speedway media center.

The award is sponsored by Collene and Gary Campbell, the sister and brother-in-law of the late Mickey Thompson.


I won five awards in the annual AARWBA journalism contest, results announced Saturday. Those included a first place in newspaper news writing (the Jeff Gordon-Clint Bowyer crew brawl at PIR) and second in newspaper feature writing (how the Gordon-Jimmie Johnson relationship has evolved) for Arizona Republic stories. My May 2012 CompetitionPlus.com column, "Oh, What Might Have Been" was first in online column writing and my exclusive breaking news story that Paul Page wouldn't return to the ESPN TV booth was honorable mention in online news writing. And this blog was second in the web log category. Thanks to all to helped make this possible.


If you didn't see them online or on Twitter, here are links to my A.J. Foyt story in last Saturday's Republic and some breaking news on CompetitionPlus.com:


[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

CHRISTMAS IN MAY

Christmas comes in May for racing fans -- and the motorsports industry -- with Sunday's all-important Indianapolis 500, Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Quite simply, it's the most important day of the racing year.

It takes on added importance this time around. Because, for the first time in my memory, three different major over-the-air broadcast networks will provide live flag-to-flag coverage of three different races. That's Indy on ABC, NASCAR on Fox, and for the first time, NBC will televise Monaco with on-air and production people actually on-site.

We'll all thrill to the competition. But, from a Business of Racing standpoint, I'll be watching attendance and TV audience.

So will sponsors. And potential sponsors.

Again this year, a good and successful Indy would be the most important among the three events. Last year's race was called one of the best ever, but didn't translate into big crowds or TV audience gains. Mark Miles will be watching his first I500 as The Man In Charge and I'm sure one of the things he'll be pondering is how to leverage his series' Big Day into attention, popularity and sales elsewhere. Quite simply, the Speedway and the Izod (for now) series needs this more than the others.

Monaco's presentation on NBC is key as Formula One continues to try to grow its own footprint in America. Later this year will be the second running at Circuit of the Americas and skeptics are watching for a noticeable dropoff from 2012's terrific debut. It's huge to the F1 industry that that doesn't happen. Not much news lately about the New Jersey GP but Bernie Ecclestone continues to seek that second big U.S. payday. A good tune-in to Monaco would help.

NASCAR banked all on its new Gen-6 car this season and, not surprisingly, it's a work in progress. Controversy has overshadowed the car in recent weeks and I bet Brian France & Co. would like a boffo Charlotte (and a Dale Earnhardt Jr. victory) to advance other storylines.

Whether you're sitting on the sofa or going to a short track or a Speedway, enjoy the sport's Christmas day.


History means everything at Indianapolis. As a follow-up to last week's blog, recalling the 20th anniversary of "Mansell Mania," here's a selection of media quotes about Nigel's epic 1993 season. It's important to remember what IndyCar was -- as a goal for the future -- and that a driver's ability to connect with the public and media can literally drive an entire sport:

"The Michael Jordan of auto racing." -- David Letterman

". . . the most daring race car driver in the world." -- Sports Illustrated

"On the track where he was expected to be vulnerable -- the wild one-mile ovals dubbed 'bullrings' for their head-spinning action and potential for the drivers to get gored -- he demonstrated genius as he had never before done." -- Sam Moses, Playboy magazine

"Nigel Mansell is the champion, and we as race fans are richer for it." -- Paul Page

"Last season became a season to remember for Mansell, not because of good fortune, but because of mountainous grit and talent." -- Mark Armijo, Arizona Republic

"Maybe 'Mansell Mania' starts with the Mansell mystique. Women appreciate his dashing looks, charming accent and suave style. Men like his wheels-to-the-wall aggressiveness, along with his habit of winning nearly everything you can shake a stick shift at." -- Indianapolis Monthly magazine

"Mansell, more impressive than even Jimmy Clark or Jackie Stewart at adapting to ovals . . ." -- Robin Miller

"To many, he embodies the soul of what racing is all about . . . Racing is tough, after all, and we are looking for heroes." -- Sam Posey

"His performance, said one veteran observer, raised Indy Car racing 'to a new level of brilliance.'" -- Time magazine

"You can't do anything but admire Nigel Mansell on the splendid season he had. He was the consummate racer on and off the track . . . Think of what the CART season would have been without him. Nigel Mansell is a true racer in my book . . . " -- Gary London, National Speed Sport News

"Mansell's audacious driving has stirred strong passions . . ." -- Robin Morgan, The Sunday Times of London magazine

". . . his performances on the ovals have emphasized his commitment, skill and bravery in the fastest of corners." -- Gordon Kirby, Racer magazine

"Mansell's championships in consecutive years would be remarkable if he had achieved them in the same series. The fact that he has done it in the two highest levels of single-seater racing in the world speaks volumes of his talent and commitment . . . In F1, Mansell faced few unknowns. His bold decision to race Indy Cars was tantamount to walking down a long and dark street." -- Tim Tuttle, On Track

"His skill and judgment on the ovals were awe-inspiring; his all-or-nothing qualifying laps on the road courses, equally majestic and entertaining." -- Jeremy Shaw, Road & Track

"Nigel Mansell has outdone Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill and the rest of his countrymen who have driven racing cars . . . (he) can lay claim to being the No. 1 race driver in the world." -- Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club newsletter

"Nigel Mansell has done us proud. His Indy Car championship win is one of the most remarkable stories in modern motorsport history and it is fitting that he should clinch the title with a dominant win on an oval circuit." -- Autosport editorial

"Astounding. Remarkable. Fantastic. They all describe Nigel's rookie Indy Car season which proved he is unquestionably one of the greatest ever. Perhaps the best." -- On Track editorial


It's the 20th anniversary of Mansell-at-Indy but it's also the 10th anniversary of Annika Sorenstam's play in a PGA golf tournament. I knew from the second Annika announced her entry that this would blow-out Indy's national media coverage that 2003 race week. Of course, the chatroom crowd tried to hit me from the first tee to the 18th green, but history's facts prove I aced this one. Even a senior IMS official at that time admitted to me the Annika issue wasn't on their radar until I wrote about it. I'm still proud of this column and here's the first four graphs of what I typed back then: 

Annika Sorenstam's decision to be a "driver" in the Bank of America Colonial, the tradition steeped PGA Tour event heretofore made famous by legendary Ben Hogan, is an unfortunate turn for another icon trying to reconnect with the public's sweet spot -- the Indianapolis 500.


The Colonial, like Indy, is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend. This impending tsunami of Sorenstam publicity might result in a TV ratings bogey for the already challenged "Greatest Spectacle In Racing."

You can write it down right now: The Sorenstam Saga -- the world's greatest female golfer will become the first woman to play in a PGA tournament since 1945 -- is guaranteed to exhaust the available media oxygen supply during those seven days. That will be much to the delight of the CBS and USA networks, whose cameras will televise Annika's every swing, and to the fret of ABC and ESPN on-site at Indy. Yet, I am certain, even World News Tonight and SportsCenter will lovingly devote more minutes to Sorenstam May 19-25 than they will to all 33 starters at Indy combined.

The Gal vs. The Guys is a classic media "crossover" story, meaning it will have a rightful place on the news, business, feature, even editorial pages, in addition to sports. In fact, that's already happened. Annika's announcement on Feb. 12 made all of that evening's network and cable news programs, was discussed on virtually every major national radio talk show (including Rush Limbaugh), and the next day, got top of Page 1 treatment in USA Today. She owns a piece of the cover, a column, and six sizzling pages in the new Sports Illustrated. Opinionists are calling it the most significant athletic competition -- from a societal standpoint -- since Billie Jean King aced aging Bobby Riggs before God, country and Howard Cosell in a 1973 prime-time Astrodome exhibition.

No doubt I'll be doing a little Tweeting this weekend, as warranted, per the guidelines I've explained here before. @SpinDoctor500

Please look for my long A.J. Foyt story in this Saturday's Arizona Republic. Foyt is back in the headlines with his team winning and leading the Izod series points -- both GREAT for IMS and IndyCar. You'll enjoy what he has to say about current and past drivers -- and an interesting suggestion he makes. It's A.J. at his classic best. If not in Arizona, you can find the story at AzCentral.com .

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Saturday, May 11, 2013

20th ANNIVERSARY of MANSELL MANIA

(In recent weeks I've been interviewed by Robin Miller, for a story that appears in the May issue of Racer, and by John Oreovicz, for an Indy 500 program story. Both are on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Mansell Mania. I lived Mansell Mania first-hand, as PR director for Newman/Haas Racing. The following was published in another forum in September 2003, remembering the 10th anniversary of Nigel's historic PPG Indy Car World series championship. That year also represented the high-water mark for the Indianapolis 500, certainly in terms of worldwide media coverage and TV ratings. Now, another decade later, and with Indy 500 activities underway, it's worth another read.)


Paul Newman called it "The Great Adventure" and the greatest thrill came on Sunday, Sept. 19, 1993.

Nazareth seemed the least likely locale to host sports history this side of Cooperstown, but those who were at the less-than-a-mile Pennsylvania oval that day saw -- in my opinion -- one of the five most significant achievements in racing's modern era.

Nigel Mansell won the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix that afternoon by almost a lap to clinch CART's PPG Indy Car World Series championship. The Formula One title had yet to be determined, so for one remarkable week (until Sept. 26), Mansell possessed both of the world's premier open-wheel crowns.

Others talked about going for such glory. Mansell did it.

Some big-name motorsports executives and pundits didn't believe Carl Haas could get the 1992 world champion's signature on a multi-million-dollar contract -- rich, but far below F1 standards -- that would force him to trade Monaco for Milwaukee and share street courses with superspeedways. But give the often-underappreciated Haas, whose business smarts are longer than his cigars, credit: He had the vision to see the stars were aligned -- Mansell was at odds with Frank Williams and enjoyed family life away from the Isle of Man at his magnificent Clearwater, Fla., estate -- and the opportunity was at hand to bring the Brit Ferrari fans proclaimed Il Leone (The Lion) to America to replace the off-to-McLaren Michael Andretti.

Mansell came to CART with much more than the record-setting nine Grand Prix victories and 14 poles he attained in the Williams-Renault enroute to the '92 title, which he locked-up in August (!), the earliest that had been done since Jackie Stewart in 1971. Even his rivals conceded Nigel was bold and brave (Sports Illustrated termed him the world's "most daring" driver) and that style stirred the public's passions. Mansell Mania, as it was known, was no PR gimmick.

Let's look back on some decade-old snapshots-in-time.

In January, Mansell made his official debut for Newman/Haas Racing on the Phoenix mile. Typically, such a test might have attracted three or four reporters, but for this occasion, 90 media from nine countries were in attendance. Haas whispered to team publicist Michael Knight, "I think this might be bigger than we thought." About 200 interview requests were in-hand before the season started. Knight analyzed it as "auto racing's first 24-hour news cycle" and months later, thinking back on the Fleet Street tabloid scribes' nothing-is-too-sensational mindset, confessed, "I've learned to feel very sorry for Princess Diana."

In Australia, two months thereafter for his initial CART event, Mansell was the fastest qualifier on the streets of Surfers Paradise. After the race-morning warmup, he quietly took aside chief mechanic Tom Wurtz, and handed him a thick wad of cash. "Regardless of what happens today, the boys have done a fantastic job. Make sure they have a good dinner." This continued throughout the year and the entire team enjoyed many a fine filet mignon courtesy of Mansell meal money. (Nigel preferred to eat and retire for the night as early as possible.) Carrying the red No. 5 he made famous in F1, Mansell fell to fourth after the green flag, but soon found his footing and was in the lead by lap 16. Just before one-third distance, he was called in for a stop-and-go penalty for passing under a local yellow (Nigel said he never saw it), but team manager Jim McGee exploited a rulebook loophole and ordered the Kmart Lola Ford-Cosworth to be refueled and new Goodyears fitted. (CART eventually changed the rule.) Mansell regained the top spot after Emerson Fittipaldi's second pit stop, but had to stretch his fuel, and the engine began to sputter entering the last chicane on the final lap. He finished five seconds in front of Fittipaldi and became the first driver ever to claim both the pole and win in his Indy Car debut. Following a quick examination of his numb foot at the circuit's medical tent (a military-style field hospital provided by the Australian army), Mansell was taken by golf cart to the media center. This normally would have been about a three-minute walk, but even with a dozen soldiers clearing a path, it became a 15-minute trip as hundreds of rabid fans cheered and sang and chanted Mansell's name and waved Union Jack flags. Remembering that scene, Knight told ESPN's SportsCenter his thought was, "This is what it must have been like when Elvis was king." (One of Mansell's private pilots had actually worked for Presley.)

Back in Phoenix in April, Mansell was nearly a second quicker than the field in Saturday practice, when he spun backwards and punched a hole in the concrete wall between turns one and two. He was airlifted to a local hospital and kept overnight for observation because of a concussion. In England, the BBC interrupted regular programming for a news flash. Nigel flew home to Florida the next morning as teammate Mario Andretti came back from two laps down to win his 52d -- and last -- race.

In Long Beach, two weeks later, Mansell returned to earn another pole and finished third. Secretly, he made regular visits to the CART medical trailer, where doctors drained fluid from his lower back. This was an injury from the Phoenix crash and, in 10 more days, required surgery which forced Nigel to miss the Indy 500 rookie orientation program.

Mansell had never been inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until he received his doctor's OK to practice. Wednesday, May 12 was a breathtaking whirlwind, as Nigel took the mandatory physical exam, met with USAC officials, rode around the Brickyard in the pace car with Mario Andretti, completed his five-phase rookie test, and eventually stopped with the day's fourth fastest lap, 222.855 mph. The photographers' queue spilled over into Tony Bettenhausen's pit, which was adjacent to Nige's, and the press room had been expanded to accommodate the global journos. Mansell's late-afternoon news conference was, according to then-IMS PR director Bob Walters, "the most packed we had the entire month -- even more than Fittipaldi's, after he'd won." Mansell brought down the house by relating, in an English accent version of a Texas drawl, the advice he'd received from A.J. Foyt: "Just watch it, boy!" The media swooned, which is as rare as a writer turning down a free St. Elmo steak. Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times summed it up this way: "In my 25 years of reporting motorsports, nothing I have seen matches Mansell's talents in switching from Formula One road racing to Indy Car ovals, particularly at Indianapolis, where he was running unbelievable speeds on his first day at the track -- even though he had never seen it before." Bob Markus of the Chicago Tribune added: "There are athletes who grab pressure by the throat and throttle it into submission. There are athletes who aim for the moon and reach for the stars. There are athletes who give the people what they want and then give them more. Make your own list, but put Nigel Mansell on it." In the 500, his first oval race, Nigel led 34 laps but inexperience on a restart with 16 laps remaining dropped him to third place. The $10,000 from Bank One (whose corporate Pooh-Bah mispronounced both ends of the recipient's name in making the announcement) as Rookie of the Year was pocket cash for Mansell, but the honor was meaningful. "This is an award you only get one chance to win," he remarked.

At Milwaukee, a week later, Mansell passed Raul Boesel for the lead with a spectacular move in turn four with 19 laps remaining. This time, he knew how to handle a restart with three to go, and became an oval winner.

A veteran of F1's tire wars, where qualifying rubber had a one-lap useful life span, Mansell was willing to go-for-it-all on those now-or-never occasions. On Detroit's Belle Isle, Nigel made a few of his mechanics recall Babe Ruth's mythic "called shot" home run, by calling the lap he'd drive the quickest. It was good for another pole . . . and just one of several times he radioed the team in advance of a fast lap.

Mansell hadn't tested at Michigan International Speedway, and found the track surface, bruised and beaten by winter weather, not to his liking -- and said so. In just his second 500-mile race, he led 222 of the 250 laps (including the last 167) and won by nine seconds over Newman/Haas mate Andretti, averaging above 188 mph. Of course, there was drama. The Michigan bumps and G-loads and long distance and August heat gave Nigel, like other drivers over the years, a headache. Aspirin was dissolved in the water bottle given Mansell on his last two pit stops, but that distressed his stomach, and he got sick inside his helmet with about 20 laps to go. Earlier in the weekend, he was introduced to Dale Earnhardt (there for the IROC event), and the two quickly developed a mutual admiration society.

Next, in seven days, Mansell marked his 40th birthday with a victory in New Hampshire. It was perhaps CART's most exciting race before use of the Hanford Device. On another mile oval he had never before seen, Nigel grabbed the pole, and fans sung "Happy Birthday" during driver intros. Mansell and Paul Tracy were the only leaders, with Fittipaldi always right there, and Nigel dropped to third during one pit sequence when Wurtz had trouble securing the right-front wheel. Nigel told the crew not to worry, and broke the tension by whistling as he went down the front straight, under yellow. With just four laps remaining, he made an amazing outside-line pass in turn two, and in the winner's circle said: "This is pure racing at its best. I've been in some races where I've been wheel-to-wheel at 200 mph with Ayrton Senna and that doesn't even come close to what we've done today."

Nazareth was Mansell's fifth victory of his historic campaign -- and fourth straight on an oval (!) -- and some of his rivals barely disguised their jealousy of his wealth and world-wide fame. Bobby Rahal's oft-quoted remark: "He puts his pants on one leg at a time, same as I do." David Letterman, however, was an unabashed fan, and welcomed Mansell on his late-night show as "the Michael Jordan of auto racing." Fittipaldi was Nigel's favorite, and even though they had a couple of on-track disputes, Mansell would admit, "I like and respect Emerson too much to be angry with him."

Gene Haskett, then general manager of Michigan Speedway, watched how crowds responded to the Englishman. "Whatever mystique is, Nigel has it," he commented. A few reporters actually made the supreme effort to attend a Kmart store autograph session, to see Mansell Mania for themselves. This is how Forrest Bond described his experience in RaceFax: "Aware of the size of the gathering, Mansell seemed anything but hurried . . . He was, throughout, attentive to each, thoroughly focused on the person before him, frequently joking and obviously enjoying himself. He held babies in his arms, kissing them for photographs that will long remain treasured items in the family album. He was, in short, as far removed from the stereotype of the arrogant and aloof F1 driver as one could imagine. It began to dawn why the Brits have taken him so to their hearts, for he truly has the touch." Dave Kallman's view, in a front-page Milwaukee Journal story: "If his business were music instead of racing, he'd be at least John, Paul, George and Ringo." Even Autosport's Nigel Roebuck, a sometime critic, had to offer a bow: ". . . the magnitude of his achievement can hardly be exaggerated . . . he has shaken everyone with his ability to turn left at colossal speeds. In traffic, particularly, he has had no peer on the ovals. Hats off."

In December, Mansell went to New York City, to be honored as Driver of the Year. He walked through Central Park before the awards luncheon and was amazed that Bernie Ecclestone ever considered it as a Grand Prix site. At the ceremony, Winston Cup titlist Earnhardt made a surprise visit, and admitted, "I had such a blast watching him race in F1. Then he comes over to Indy Cars and kicks tail again. I'm not sure I'd want him to come to NASCAR." Even though Rusty Wallace won 10 times, Benny Parsons conceded, "I have no problem with Mansell as Driver of the Year. The attention he brought to our sport was incredible." USA Today named him one of the "93 Most Compelling People of '93."

In retrospect, it's obvious 1993 was CART's greatest season, with unprecedented levels of public interest and U.S. and international news coverage. Ticket sales were good, sponsorships were strong, and nobody was worried about bad TV ratings. (And announcers didn't feel it necessary to hype-up drivers not household names in their own households.) It is nothing short of stunning to contemplate how far this once proud and mighty series has fallen.

Consider one final fact: Mansell usually took on fields of 28 or 29 cars, driven by undeniable talents such as Fittipaldi, Andretti, Rahal, Al Unser Jr., Danny Sullivan, Arie Luyendyk, Robby Gordon, Roberto Guerrero, Teo Fabi, Scott Goodyear and Scott Pruett. Now, one short decade since, CART has desecrated Mansell's Rookie of the Year stats by using them to sell Sebastien Bourdais. The Frenchman goes up against 10 fewer entries, which are steered by the likes of Rodolfo Lavin, Tiago Monteiro, Patrick Lemarie, Joel Camathias, Alex Sperafico, Roberto Gonzales, Alex Yoong, Geoff Boss, Mario Dominguez, Mario Haberfeld, and Gualter Salles. It is a bogus comparison, made in desperation, one sadly repeated by those in the anti-Tony George media who apparently have chosen to ignore the journalistic imperative of context.

Ten years ago, Mansell Mania made CART king. It was, indeed, "The Great Adventure." Cheers, Nigel.

***********************************************************************

I sent this out on Twitter last week, but here's my new CompetitionPlus.com column: Yes, NHRA, legitimate/informed criticism can be a healthy thing. I've gotten lots of interesting reactions to this column.
http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/editorials/25017-michael-knight-will-some-every-truly-understand-journalistic-freedom

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, May 05, 2013

AMERICA's RACE MONTH

I'll say it again this year as I have for many, many years:

May is America's race month.

Talladega, Darlington, Charlotte, Laguna Seca, Englishtown, Indianapolis, Monaco (counts since there is again a U.S. Grand Prix), the 500, the 600, and short-track action from coast-to-coast.

It's a time to enjoy the racing. Celebrate the stars. Appreciate the fans.

Within the industry, it's also a time to step-up, work harder, do better. Given that May turns the light bulb on to motorsports in newsrooms around the country, and given the coverage challenges faced by many series, NOW is when the MAXIMUM PROFESSIONAL effort needs to be made.

People have GOT to raise their game.

It doesn't cut it when I get a release saying a driver is going to compete in all five USAC Silver Crown pavement races but not one single date or location is listed. Or when I get post-race recaps from a NASCAR Truck team on Monday or Tuesday for races that happened Friday or Saturday. Or releases with the usual tripe about a driver is "excited" and "looking forward to" a race -- instantly deleted here.

People should not be writing NEWS releases if they haven't passed a basic News Writing 101 course. Proper news releases are written for the benefit of the media, not the ego of sponsor bosses. And then these people wonder why their stuff isn't used!

It continues to be a head-shaker at how many publicists don't update their distribution lists. I know of some writers who haven't covered the sport in years who still get releases while those who have assumed those duties don't. Ditto for updating lists for media events, press conferences, etc. It's nuts-and-bolts, non-glamorous, but important basic work. This is called paying attention to the details. It's one thing PR people are paid to do.

Finally, May is a good time for reflection, especially by those organizations who show little or no appreciation to those who have provided years and decades of good help -- sometimes far beyond the reasonable call of duty. ABC/ESPN and the Penske Racing and Goodyear so-called "PR" people top my current list of non-appreciaters. As I have pointed out for a long time -- in the example of Jim Chapman (as important a Business of Racing figure at the Indy 500 as there ever has been and who should be in the Speedway's Hall of Fame) -- this is a people business. That personal touch and demonstration of gratitude will never, ever be replaced by an E-mail, Tweet or IM.

Shame on those who collect a PR paycheck who don't get that. Or simply refuse to make the effort. 

[ more next Monday . . . ]